A plea has been filed by NGO Public Policy Advocates before the Supreme Court seeking an exemption for Covid-19 drugs remdesivir, tocilizumab, favipiravir and other drugs with a similar generic composition and related medical equipment from Goods and Service Tax (GST).
It asked for a direction to the Central government to invoke its powers under Section 11 of the Central GST Act 2017 to lift imposition of GST on medical grade oxygen, oxygen concentrators, ventilators, Bipap machines, control measures and supportive care for Covid-19 patients in view of demand for these drugs and medical equipment having increased exponentially.
Accusing the GST Council of showing total apathy by not recommending an exemption on such drugs and equipment to the Central government, the NGO has sought exemption of 12% GST imposed on such drugs and equipment, which would make treatment much more affordable to the public.
The NGO also requested for a direction be issued to the GST Council to convene a meeting as contemplated in Section 11 and examine the issue of GST exemption on “Covid-19 related drugs including but not limited to remdesivir, tocilizumab, favipiravir and other drugs with similar generic constitution, medical equipment including but not limited to ventilators & Bipap machines, and other medical treatment for infection prevention, control measures and supportive care for Covid-19 patients including but not limited to medical grade oxygen, oxygen concentrators etc.
“Section 11 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act empowers the Central government to exempt goods or services, or both, from the tax leviable on the basis of the recommendations of the Goods and Services Tax Council, if it is satisfied that it is necessary in the public interest,” the plea states.
With the spike in demand, unfortunately, there have been many cases of black marketing and hoarding of such medicines, it points out. “The right to health in times of pandemic, assumes an ever more crucial significance since affordable healthcare and availability of drugs which are critical to fight moderate and severe cases of illness have to be given paramount importance. This would have the effect of preventing black marketing, hoarding of such drugs and other medical equipment, as well as would ensure that the same is available to the citizens at affordable cost,” the plea states.
It is critical to underscore that drugs such as remdesivir and tocilizumab along with medical grade oxygen, were part of the Covid Clinical Management Protocol issued by the ministry of health and family welfare on June 27 last year, Public Policy Advocates stated.